“The Godfather” in Federal Court – Copyright/Trademark Case

By Jim Maisano

An interesting copyright and trademark case was brought on February 17, 2012 in the US. District Court, Southern District of New York by Paramount Pictures Corp. against the Mario Puzo Estate. It is a dispute regarding The Godfather. Paramount is seeking money damages, injunctive relief and declaratory judgment. Check out link: Godfather Complaint

The complaint tell us that Paramount purchased the copyright interests to the legendary novel The Godfather in 1969 from its author Mario Puzo, and then produced three blockbuster movies (the third was disappointing). Puzo died in 1999.

In a 2002 agreement, the Puzo estate was granted the right to produce one “sequel novel” by Paramount. The parties disagreed about future rights and left that battle to another day. In 2004, The Godfather Returns was published (more than half the reviews on Amazon were only 1 or 2 stars). In 2006, without Paramount’s knowledge or consent, the Puzo estate published a second novel, The Godfather’s Revenge (it did better, but you can buy both books for a penny on Amazon)The Puzo estate plans to publish an additional novel, The Family Corleone.

Paramount maintains the actions by the Puzo estate caused it “irreparable harm” and creates “unfair competition” and is seeking a court declaration that its copyright and trademark interests were infringed. Paramount has also asked for punitive damages and attorneys’ fees.

Since I am a big fan of The Godfather novel and movies, I will keep an eye out for the answer from the Puzo estate and will attempt to follow this litigation. I wonder if either side will make “an offer they can’t refuse?”

James Maisano, Esq.
(914) 636-1621

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